Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 Book Lists pt. 2: Best writing; For Twilight Lovers; Edgy; Foodie Fiction

*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt 3; Pt. 4; Pt. 5; Pt. 6; Pt. 7
*Books are linked to my reviews, if available. Otherwise, they're linked to Amazon. I have read all of these books and written reviews for most, but haven't posted many of them yet. As I do, I will update this page.

I'd give my left arm to write like these authors...
-Some authors are just too talented. It's not fair.

Shiver and Linger- Maggie Stiefvater
Human falls in love with werewolf. Grace is fascinated by a particular wolf. Sam is a werewolf in his final year of transformation.When they meet in Sam’s human form, their love is instantaneous and immutable. Can they stay together somehow? Beautiful, atmospheric writing. The prose evokes a cold, gray winter day - very fitting with the book's setting. Fabulous use of lyrics and Rielke poems to hype up the romance. Haunting, sad, sweet, angsty, wonderful. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson
Beautiful tale of grief. You will spend much of the book laughing and crying at the same time. Reeling from her sister’s death, grief threatens to overtake Lenny. She seeks comfort in her sister’s boyfriend Toby in ways she probably shouldn’t. She is also attracted to a new kid, Joe, who can take her away from her grief, if only for a short time. Joe is an incredible guy: sweet, a talented musician, cute...just perfect. Wonderful use of poetry throughout the book. You really feel Lennie’s grief, confusion, and love.

Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
Beautiful, complex, haunting, romantic, heart-breaking, uplifting. No single word can describe a book this wonderful. It’s extremely confusing at first, but if you stick with it, you will be in love with Taylor Markham and her world. Taylor represents her school in its annual turf war with the Townies and the Cadets. This year’s war is full of battles, friendships, and new love. Interspersed throughout the book are excerpts of a novel written by Hannah, Taylor’s housemother. You’ll be amazed how everything fits together; the smallest things at the start of the book is so significant later on. Truly skilled writing. (Amazon)

At Home - Bill Bryson
Take a tour through Bill Bryson's 150 year old home, room by room. Learn about topics loosely related, if at all, to these rooms, including fashion, cholera, rodent intelligence, and much more. Bryson could make an essay about wallpaper drying engaging and witty. You'll laugh hysterically at all of Bryson's dry British quips and learn a great deal in the process. (Amazon)

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
Samantha is a stereotypical popular mean girl with a perfect life...until it ends. Now, she has to relive her last day over and over until she gets it right. Writing the same story seven different times could easily be mind-numblingly boring, but Lauren Oliver makes each day seem unique, even if the same event occurs just slightly differently. The day changes as Samantha goes through the stages of grief - anger, sadness, acceptance. (Amazon)

Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
Heart-breaking depiction of the effects of date rape on a 14-year-old girl. Melinda goes through life with a black veil over her face - she wants to live, but the memories and the depression separate her from the world. Deeply cynical, yet realistic portrayal of high school. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the last quarter of the book. The stark, highly sarcastic prose heightens the emotions of the book. (Amazon)

Mistwood- Leah Cypess
Prince Rokan finding Isabel in the woods and Isabel pledging to protect him. Isabel doesn't know why the prince had brought her here. Yet her subconscious knows exactly what she's doing. She instinctively understands the intricacies of court politics, physical protection, and human motivation. Isabel is a shifter - an immortal creature who can take the shape of whatever thing necessary. But why does Rokan need her and why can't she remember her past? Fabulously complex story and intricately drawn characters. Mistwood unfolds slowly but never frustratingly so. You'll want to savor ever page. (Amazon)

When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
An homage to A Wrinkle In Time set in 1970s New York City. Sixth grader Miranda's best friend has abandoned her. Her life is further complicated by her new friends, her mom's boyfriend who wants more involvement in the family, and a mysterious crazy homeless man on the corner. Then she begins receiving notes that ask her do to things and seemingly predict the future. What should she do with these notes? Why is she receiving them? Both complex and accessible to young readers, When You Reach Me is truly worthy of the Newbury Medal. (Amazon)

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
A toddler's family is murdered, and he is brought into a graveyard to be raised by the ghosts within. Named Nobody Owens ("Bod"), he must learn to navigate the ghost world and the human world, where danger still lurks. Exemplifies the best of Neil Gaiman: always dark, but at times sweet, funny, dangerous, and/or sad. (Amazon)

The Cardturner - Louis Sachar
Alton's greedy mother "volunteers" him to help his rich uncle play bridge. His uncle is miserly and cranky on the surface, but Alton gradually sees a different man, brilliant and funny who has a bittersweet past. Alton even manages to find a cool girl friend in his family's mortal enemy. Few authors could pull off teaching teenagers how to play bridge without turning the book into an insomniac's dream. Sachar manages to educate and entertain. (Amazon)

Swim the Fly - Don Calame
Humor is probably the hardest writing style to do well. Don Calame is a master at humor. Calame's screenwriting background also shows in the constant pace and smooth transitions in the plot. Any book about three boys trying to see a naked girl that can make me laugh until I cry, but also make me tear up is really something special. . (Amazon)

If the word “Twilight” makes your heart palpate...
-My heart is skipping a beat just thinking about Edward...and Jasper. But one cannot read Twilight continuously. Thankfully these books are great substitutes.

Vampire Academy: Blood Promise and Spirit Bound - Richelle Mead
Each Vampire Academy book is fun, suspenseful, and oozes romance. There’s the boarding school element. As the series continues, you have complicated royal politics. There are three really hot guys, Dimitri, Adrian, and Christian. One bold, kick-butt girl, Rose. And twist after twist in the plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Twilight: The Graphic Novel - Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim
Great for the Twilight fan and the manga fan. A little confusing if you don’t already know the Twilight plot, but great fun if you do. Absolutely gorgeous art. Wonderful mixing of photos and drawings, color and grayscale. (Amazon)

Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
Norah is both repulsed and attracted by Patch. He alternates between being lewd and intensely romantic - a “bad boy” with a hint of something more. Norah’s human life suddenly collides with the dangerous yet sexy world of fallen angels. A suspenseful psychological thriller that will have you turning the pages. (Amazon)

Blue Bloods: The Van Alen Legacy and Misguided Angel - Melissa de la Cruz
Old school wealthy "blue-bloods" are really vampires. More specifically, vampires descended from angels. If you like angel and vampire mythology, you'll love this. The series becomes less about shallow rich kids and more about a great battle between good and evil as the books go on. Prominent love triangle between the hot, sweet, powerful guy and the best friend. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Shiver and Linger- Maggie Stiefvater
Human falls in love with werewolf. Grace is fascinated by a particular wolf. Sam is a werewolf in his final year of transformation.When they meet in Sam’s human form, their love is instantaneous and immutable. Can they stay together somehow? Beautiful, atmospheric writing. Fabulous use of lyrics and Rielke poems to hype up the romance. Haunting, sad, sweet, angsty, wonderful. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

The Dark Divine - Bree DeSpain
Daniel disappeared years ago and his friend Jude came home covered in blood. Now Daniel’s back, Jude hates him, and Jude’s sister Grace is falling in love. Grace and Daniel’s friendship gradually builds into something more - much more real than love at first sight. Paranormal romance with a slow introduction of the paranormal element that eventually turns into a “must keep reading” thriller. (Amazon)

Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Ethan is entranced with the mysterious, dark new girl. Lena is a caster, a witch, who is on the cusp of discovering whether she is innately good or evil. Full of great side characters like Link, Macon, Amma, and Liv and a warm, slow, mysterious Southern Gothic setting. Ethan learns that his and Lena's worlds are more linked that he could have imagined as the series continues. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Fallen - Lauren Kate
Dark, Southern gothic, fallen angel romance. Luce feels a strong, unexplainable connection to gorgeous, bad-boy Daniel at her new reform boarding school. Add handsome Cam to create a love triangle. Twists and turns as the mystery and danger builds and you don’t know who you should trust. (Amazon)

The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner - Stephenie Meyer
The doomed newborn vampire gets a story of her own in Stephenie’s novella. The plot is rather cheesy, especially the romance, but still cute. The really good stuff is the new information Twilight lovers learn about the qualities of a newborn vampire and the opportunity to see the Cullens from an outsider’s perspective. (Amazon)

Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires #1) - Chloe Neill
27-year-old Merit is changed into a vampire against her will. She's sucked into an impending vampire war. Merit must accept her new life as an immortal and also help protect her vampire house from those that threaten them. Heart-stopping, romantic, love triangle tension between Merit, master vampire Ethan, and rival house vampire Morgan. Merit has a fabulously snarky voice that will make you want to read more and more. (Amazon)

Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
Enthralling, edgy fairy book. Aislinn has the Sight to see fairies, but must keep it a secret. Keenan, a cursed Summer Prince, finds her and must have her for his Summer Queen. But Aisleen doesn't need a king; she loves her boyfriend Seth. Two essentially "good" main characters who have needs opposite the other. Is there a way everyone can win? (Amazon)

Iron King, Iron Daughter, and Iron Queen - Julia Kagawa
Meghan Chase discovers that she is the daughter of great fairy king Oberon. Half-fairy and half-mortal, Meghan can withstand the iron that cripples full-blooded fairies. Meghan initially goes into the Never Never to rescue her kidnapped brother, but it turns into a three-book journey to save the entire fairy world from the iron fey. Great character growth through the series: Meghan starts out simpering and boring and turns into a confident, capable, kick-butt warrior. Love triangle between dark and handsome Winter Prince Ash and best friend, funny Puck (aka Robin Goodfellow). Coolest cat character. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)

If you like things a little edgy...
-These books take chances and make you step out of your comfort zone, at least a little bit.

Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles
Pretty, popular girl Brittany is stuck being lab partners with bad-boy Mexican gang member Alex. Both think the other person is despicable, but really they have a lot in common. Alex makes a bet to catch Brittany’s heart, but he finds himself actually falling in love with her. Pretty predictable romance plot. Still it’s hard not to like the character and get carried away with the story. (Amazon)

Wake, Fade and Gone- Lisa McMann
Janie is cursed by the gift of seeing other people's dreams - good ones, creepy ones, really bad ones. The daughter of a single alcoholic mom mired in poverty, her normal life is no better than her dream life. She realizes that she can use her curse to help solve crimes - that some purpose can come from her life. She has a fabulous partner/boyfriend in Cabel, a damaged "bad boy" who becomes a passionate, kind, charismatic boyfriend. As the series goes on, Janie discovers just what possibilities and consequences can come from her dream-catching ability and must decide whether to ignore her gift and cut out everyone around her. The prose is as stark, edgy, and as fast-paced as the story. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Levithan
Two boys named Will Grayson meet one night and form a friendship. WG1 is the average kid in the shadow of his flamboyantly gay best friend, Tiny. WG2 is a gay teen who is so depressed that you spend much of the book wanting to give the kid a big hug. WG1, WG2, and Tiny become an interesting trio as Tiny puts on a school musical called Tiny Dancer. Lots of sarcasm, lots of boyish angst. (Amazon)

Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
Heart-breaking depiction of the effects of date rape on a 14-year-old girl. Melinda goes through life with a black veil over her face - she wants to live, but the memories and the depression separate her from the world. Deeply cynical, yet realistic portrayal of high school. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the last quarter of the book. (Amazon)

Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott
15-year-old Alice was kidnapped by Ray five years ago. Her life has been pure hell since that time. She’s no longer a little girl and will soon be useless. She has to help Ray find her replacement, with only death awaiting her on the other side. Fascinating analysis of how cruel treatment and hopelessness can influence a person’s character. Hard to read, but very interesting. (Amazon)

Infinite Days - Rebecca Maizel
600 year old vampire queen is transformed back into a human. Lenah's human life at a boarding school doesn't make for a very edgy book, but the many flashbacks of her vampire life do. Maizel doesn't shirk from depicting Lenah's vampire world as cruel and violent, with her as the chief perpetrator. (Amazon)

Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires #1) - Chloe Neill
27-year-old Merit is changed into a vampire against her will and is sucked into an impending vampire war. For an adult paranormal romance, it's not all that edgy. But it has more innuendo, swearing, and sensuality than most YA novels. Merit's snarky, sarcastic voice makes the book a lot of fun. (Amazon)

Foodie Fiction...
-These books feature themes or prominent references to food. Makes a cooking and food lover like me swoon!

Fat Cat - Robin Brande
Cat is a charming, smart, overweight girl. When she becomes her own science project, she loses tons of weight. This brings on so many changes: a love for cooking, a job in a vegan cafe, a conversion to veganism, and lots of attention from boys. But Cat is too blinded by pride and prejudice to notice the boy who really likes her and is worth liking. Lots of fun food references in this book and a good argument for veganism. (Amazon)

The Cupcake Queen - Heather Hepler
Penny moves from New York to tiny Hog’s Hollow when her parents separate. Her mom opens a cupcake story, which becomes a big hit. Penny loves decorating cupcakes and coming up with new designs. She is less successful in warding off the local mean girls. Still, she finds small-town life better than expected. Features a great friend character: Tally and a really cool, mysterious yet nice boy: Marcus. You'll want to take a cake decorating class after reading this! (Amazon)

The Espressologist - Kristina Springer
Jane loves to predict people’s personalities based on their favorite coffee drink. She turns this into a matchmaking adventure on a lark, and it turns into a huge success. Suddenly Jane is matching people left and right, including her best friend and Cam, a guy in her college class. But the more Jane gets to know Cam, the more she’s wishing she was matched to him instead. Jane is a bit annoying, but Cam is great, and the story is light and fun. You can almost smell the bittersweet odor of roasting beans as you read. (Amazon)

Sunshine - Robin McKinley
A unique vampire romance book. It's set in an alternate universe where vampires and other paranormal creatures are known to exist. Vampires hunt and are also hunted. Rae is put in the unlikely situation of a working relationship with a vampire, Con. Together, Rae and Con fight the government and other vampires. The food element: Rae works in a bakery/coffeeshop. The references to muffins, rolls, and sweets will make your mouth water. I actually did go bake blueberry muffins as soon as I finished the book. (Amazon)


  1. I haven't read Mistwood yet - at first glance I thought it looked like pretty standard YA fantasy fare, but I keep hearing good things about it and I think you've won me over now! I'm going to have to check it out :)

  2. Alison, I'm in love with your lists. I'm just going to print them out so I can highlight all the ones I haven't read and take them to the bookstore with me to do some impressive damage. Borders is going to both love me and know me by name:)

  3. Love your choices Alison, my favourite is Sunshine - an amazing stand-alone, and you're right about the muffins, mine were carrot!

  4. Great choices again! I'm loving these lists and finding so many books to add to my TBR! :)

  5. Oh man, I feel like I haven't read anything this year after seeing your awesome list! Out of all those books listed, I've only read two...Sunshine (loved) and Speak. everything else is pretty much on my tbr pile though! I can't wait to read the Iron King series! Great list!

  6. I love your list here! You're reading my mind ;) I was SO glad to see Perfect Chemistry and Will Grayson, Will Grayson on the list :D

  7. So many great books! My wishlist just became bigger! I really want to read Shiver!

  8. Interesting list, Alison. I've read quite a few of them. Some of them I've loved (i.e. "Speak", "Before I fall", "Wolves of Mercy series) and others were big disappointments ("Hush, Hush", "Fallen", "Perfect Chemistry"). I'm curious, how are you compiling your lists?

  9. I love these lists! Thanks for taking the time to put them together.

    I'm so glad you included Mistwood. I really enjoyed that one. It was different from most other fantasy books.

  10. I love this list! Thank you for compiling it...I have some new ideas now. And I love the new background!


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